The excitement is building for your week long vacation that starts tomorrow! You have everything packed, double checked the house is ready, dog is at the kennel. YOU ARE READY TO TRAVEL! Oh wait, that was life before kids.
If your reality is anything like mine than you are probably leaving in two hours and haven’t even packed the food bag. Family vacations aren’t typically “vacations” in our house. They are a dreaded car ride, followed by a week of doing exactly what we did at home, but with different surroundings. My boys fight, they dirty everything, we eat nothing but chicken nuggets.
Our family moved to South Carolina two years ago from Pennsylvania. We love it here. However, we do travel back to PA to see family once in a while. Going back means a 12 hour drive in the car. We can’t fly because we all know grandparents have to load our kids down with “goodies” on the way back! I am pretty sure we would have about $1,000 in baggage fees if we flew. On top of going to Pennsylvania, my husband and also I enjoy experiencing the U.S. with our two boys. So we do A LOT of traveling every year.
Here are some travel tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way for those brave enough to travel with their kiddos!
Long Distance Car Travel
This is my least favorite type of travel. So many hours stuck in the same place. Boredom ensues … it can get messy. However, car travel can also be the least stressful if you have the right stuff, and you understand a few things.
1. Plan on adding about 2-3 hours onto your arrival time, depending on the length of the trip. Between bathroom breaks and food stops, it can add up! Just know ahead of time the trip will take you longer than your GPS tells you it will.
2. Stop at EVERY rest stop. It doesn’t matter if you have an experienced bathroom goer, a newbie, or a baby – just stop! It’s so much easier to get off at a rest stop than getting off an exit. The worst is finding out that the McDonald’s that was off the exit is really 3 miles down the road! On most highways, rest stops are spaced out the way they are for a reason. Don’t end up like me and have your child pee their pants because they decided they needed to go AFTER you drove past the rest stop. When your child states they have to go, you have AT LEAST 40 miles till the next one. Trust me, its like Murphy’s law of traveling.
3. Don’t go overboard with the “busy bag.” You can Pinterest to your little hearts content, but in my experience it’s all for nothing. They never want what you pack. I have tried three different ways to get them to color but it only ends up causing frustration. While boredom sounds like a nightmare, I have found it to be a good thing. I usually make my kids stare out the window for at least the first half of the trip. If it’s at night, I sometimes allow the DVD player to come on, but only out of desperation. My kids ask so many questions about the scenery outside their window. Personally, I love that but maybe I’m weird! That’s what I did as a kid and I have plenty of good travel memories as a result.
4. Don’t bring too many snacks. It only adds to the amount to you have to pack. Instead, portion out the snacks and put them in baggies. So much easier than packing a large bag filled with boxes of Teddy Grahams and bags of chips. Small baggies make it easier to hand the snacks out also. Ask yourself how much do you snack during the day and then pack that amount.
5. Travel during nap/be times. If you are going to be driving for a long time, than you are better off sacrificing your own sleep and traveling while the little ones can sleep (overnight for us). However, I give you permission to listen to that radio station you can never listen to when they are awake.
Most tips for car travel can translate to air travel as well. However, there are a few additional tricks to remember.
1. Always arrive at least 30 minutes before departure. Get the kids to sit down, relax, take a break, and make sure they have all gone to the potty. They are about the get stuck in a metal tube for hours. Ease into the experience. Don’t run through the terminal because you arrived at the airport 10 minutes before boarding time. It will only translate into a stressful flight!
2. Bring stuff to read or color. This can be hard when traveling by car, but for those moments between taxing and take off, you need something. This is bound to be the time they get crazy! They can’t use those trusty electronics and can’t get out of their seat, so make sure they are preoccupied.
3. Please understand you aren’t going to have time to read that novel you bought at the duty free store. When you are flying you are going to get asked a million questions. You are going to have to occupy your child. Unfortunately, in no way does that mean you are going to have time for that book. If you do, they will undoubtedly freak out just as you are getting to the good part. This obviously doesn’t apply to those who have a nanny, cooperative children, or a perfect husband.
4. Just like car travel, try and travel by air during their “restful” times. Maybe you can’t book a flight during their nap. But if you know that child is calm as a cucumber at 8 a.m., then pay the extra $30 dollars for that flight! I also pack lavender essential oil to calm my children. Works like a charm!
5. Don’t stress about others around you. Chances are they have had children, or have been on a flight with children. You are doing the best you can. Worry about your children, not the others around you!